Cook County, Minnesota is your ultimate destination for Minnesota winter activities. There’s simply no better place to embark on a winter adventure. Things are quieter up here in winter, which means it’s the perfect time to explore. You’ll feel like you have the trails to yourself – which is an absolute must this year. You’ll be able to enjoy the nation’s darkest skies and if you’re lucky, a beautiful show of northern lights. 

You’ll find the slower pace of winter in Cook County is a welcome respite. Without the hustle and bustle of your everyday, you’ll have more time to focus on your friends, your family and yourself.

Winter visitors can expect ideal winter conditions longer than the rest of the state. The first snow is usually in early November and Lutsen Mountains offers alpine skiing and boarding with at least 40 runs guaranteed until mid-April. There are also endless snowshoe and cross-country ski trails throughout Cook County to enjoy.

Everything You Need to Know About Our Winter Climate

We get an average of 120 inches of snow each winter. That’s no joke! That means miles upon miles of trails are always in great condition for exploration. Whether you’re on a snowmobile, skis, snowshoes or your own two feet, there are some things you should know about our climate that will ensure your winter adventure is both safe and exhilarating.

We won’t sugarcoat it, winter is cold in Cook County. That’s why so many love this area, but it does present a few challenges. While many days will see average high temperatures from 10-30 degrees Fahrenheit, we also see many days fall below zero.

Don’t let that scare you. With the proper gear, you can experience winter safely no matter the temperature. Do you want to be out in temperatures -40F in a blizzard? No, we wouldn’t recommend it. But with warm gloves, boots, snowsuits and helmets, exploring Cook County in cold weather is an adventure you’ll never forget.


Gear We Recommend

  • Warm base layers
  • Insulated outer layers
  • Quality gloves or mittens
  • Winter boots
  • A face mask for indoor activities

Download our Winter Packing List to ensure you have all the important elements packed along. Of course, you can pick up the essentials while you are here by visiting our many great shops

Our Favorite Outdoor Winter Adventures

There’s truly no shortage of fun things to do during winter in Cook County. If you’re interested in trying something new, our region is the perfect place to learn. Some of our favorite outdoor winter adventures are easily accessible throughout Cook County.

Cross Country Skiing
Whether you’ve been skiing since you were able to walk, or you’ve never strapped on a pair of skis, Cook County is the perfect place to embark on a cross-country ski adventure. Our region is home to the nation’s largest cross-country ski trails network – and we welcome you to explore every kilometer. With over 400km at your disposal, you may be here for a while! 

Cross-country skiing is an affordable and fun adventure for the whole family. Pick up a Minnesota State Ski Pass for as little as $10/day or $25/year, or try one of the privately maintained trails on the Gunflint Trail.

Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding
Lutsen Mountains is the premier downhill ski and snowboard recreation area in the Midwest. With over 1,000 feet of vertical spread across four mountains, you won’t find this kind of thrill anywhere nearby. Lutsen Mountains has 95 runs – ranging from bunny hills to double black diamonds – to keep you, or the entire family, busy all weekend long.

Snowshoeing in Cook County is one of the most incredible ways to explore our dramatic landscape. You’ll be able to reach more remote places than you could on foot and can explore deeper into the wilderness where the ground may be covered in feet of fresh snow. 

Many trails, including the Superior Hiking Trail, remain open year-round. Take the opportunity to strap on a pair of snowshoes and explore miles of trails this winter. Our favorite time to get out on the trails is early in the morning after an overnight snowfall, just as the sun rises above the horizon. 

Did you know you could make the trek from Duluth to Grand Marais by snowmobile? Winding through rural, north shore towns and quiet wilderness areas, the C.J. Ramstad/North State Trail will take you the whole way. Keep heading north to Grand Portage and explore 100+ miles of pristine trails. It’s an adventure you’ll never forget. Over 450 miles to explore. Need we say more?

Fat Tire Biking
If you listen closely enough, you can probably hear the low humming of fat tire bikes cruising through Cook County. We can certainly tell that fat tire biking is taking the sport by storm. They’re all over, and for good reason. Riding on the snow is just plain fun. No mincing words there. Plain and simple F-U-N. As you plan your trip, bookmark our biking page for up-to-date trail conditions and winter biking maps.

The Ultimate Winter Vacation Packing Checklist

There’s a Minnesota winter adventure for everyone in Cook County. Plan your trip today. We’d be happy to have you! But before you go, make sure you pack everything you need to stay safe and warm. 

Download our Winter Vacation Packing Checklist for additional tips and ideas to make sure your winter adventure is the best experience it can be.